Eye Level Gallery, 16 November-2 December 1982
[First published in Prince Edward Island's Arts Atlantic 16, Spring 1983, 8.]
Janice Leonard uses scraps of linoleum, carpet, paper and wood to make Dream Homes. They are not real buildings but collage constructions that hang on a wall. Six of these works were shown recently at the Eye Level Gallery along with works by Robert Pope and Gary Spearin.
Leonard based her pieces on actual dreams recorded in her journals:
"I HAD A DREAM I LIVED IN A HOUSE-BOAT ADRIFT ON HALIFAX HARBOUR" is a sentence stuck under an advertising drawing of a boat in one of the works. Strips of linoleum are tacked around the edge of the collage. All these items are glued to a piece of wallpaper that has a swirling brown pattern on it. The other collages use similar materials to complement the sentences that are put on them:
"I HAD A DREAM I LIVED IN A CABIN IN THE WOODS BY A LAKE"
"I HAD A DREAM I LIVED NEAR THE SHORE IN A HOUSE MADE OF LARGE CEMENT BRICKS"
"I HAD A DREAM I LIVED N MARITIME MALL"
I HAD A DREAM I LIVED IN A MOBILE HOME WITH MY SISTER AND A LITTLE GIRL"
"I HAD A DREAM I LIVED IN A GLASS-SIDED HOUSE DURING A WAR"
She has adapted the format of "Home Sweet Home" samplers that were found in every house years ago, and has updated their content. She replaces the numbers and letters that were embroidered into samplers with witty poems of longing. Her sentences are about the house she may never own. Leonard's personal frustration at having to move from one apartment to another, looking for reasonably priced accommodation, gave her the impetus to make the work. Her constructions have as much to do with economic hard times as they do with an artistic play of materials.
Leonard's collage method originates in Cubist and DADA experiments which were assimilated into art making at the beginning of the century. What looks messy to some viewers of Leonard's work looks elegant to those who are reminded of the Modernist work which precedes it. People who like the look of the work may not find positive value in the sentences; however, those who are irritated by the look of the collages will find their feelings reinforced by the statements. Such are the potential pitfalls of work which attempts to bridge the gap between formal concerns and social commentary - almost diametrically opposed traditions.